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Kit gives teachers tools to meet every child's emotional needs

Meeting the unique needs of every child is easy when you’ve got the right tools. Center Director Emily Els at KinderCare in Rowlett, Texas, swears by Inclusion Service’s social emotional development tool kit as something that helps her make her center an inclusive and loving space for all children.

Els, who’s seen an increase in children that benefit from a little extra social and emotional development in her center, uses the tool kit to not only help accommodate specific children, but to teach every child in her center to be accepting of differences.

“I feel very passionate that all children should be included in what we do,” she said. “We have to teach children to respond to other children who have challenges. They can all benefit from social and emotional learning.”

Whether a child in her center is autistic, or just has trouble sitting through story time, Els says the tool kit gives her everything she needs. And if there’s a hiccup, the Inclusion Services hotline operators are there to fill in the gaps.

“We have a three-year-old girl who’s a little feisty and likes to throw tantrums,” she said. “We used the ABC chart to figure out what was setting her off, and set up a cozy corner with the visual timer and self-calming cards to help her settle down.”

The tools work so well, this child now tells her teacher when she’s ready to join in with the class again. And when she’s feeling a little off, she asks for the visual timer herself.

“Having all the resources and knowing that there’s support through Inclusion Services is empowering,” she said. “We’re working together to make the center more welcoming for everyone.”

One popular tool, Tucker the Turtle (a storybook with an accompanying puppet), has been critical in helping a new student with mood swings. But Tucker is so popular, his story is read to children almost every day at their request.

“[One] child frequently runs out of the classroom, and Tucker the Turtle has helped,” said Els. She made copies of the story for the child to take home and use with his parents.

“You can’t help every struggling child all the time, but there’s a benefit to every child in the classroom when using these tools,” she said.

Pushing the center’s environment to be more inclusive and welcome of all abilities is exactly what the tool kit was intended to do.

“Used effectively, every child benefits from these teaching tools,” said Kate Jordan-Downs, director of instructional support. “We can’t blame a child for not being able to follow the rules, or for expressing an emotion in a way that is disruptive. We have to start thinking about social and emotional skills like we think about physical development, as skills that can be taught.”

Els and her team succeed in inserting social and emotional development into what they do for all children, not just those who need it most.

“There are children who have been kicked out of other programs, and their parents need to hear that we’re here to support them,” said Els. “Make the tool kit a very real part of your classroom. This generation of children needs to be treated with love, respect, and passion.”